“I felt like the best course of action would have been to have an open, public, transparent review of CSCOPE lessons, and allow smaller districts who use them to make the determination of whether they want to continue using the lessons or not. It’s essentially deprived school districts of the ability to make that decision.”

That’s Texas State Board of Education member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, responding to Monday’s announcement by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that the state’s Education Service Centers will no longer be providing lessons in its CSCOPE curriculum management system.

We have always had concerns about giving the state board authority over CSCOPE because the board itself has been such a politically divisive battleground on curriculum issues. But Rowley’s concerns about what this decision means for local school districts have a lot of merit. Hundreds of those small and mid-size districts lacked the resources to develop curriculum plans to cover the state’s lengthy, overly complicated and detailed curriculum standards. CSCOPE filled that need for them. But the absurd witch hunt in which critics claimed CSCOPE used “Nazi mind control” techniques to indoctrinate Texas students into Marxism and Islam has now succeeded… Read More

Apparently, it’s one step forward, then two steps back when it comes to the Texas State Board of Education.

Last month we were encouraged when the chairman of the state board committee that will review the social studies materials in the CSCOPE curriculum management system said he wanted that review process to be fully transparent. A transparent process would help prevent Tea party and other far-right activists — who have repeatedly and absurdly attacked CSCOPE as Marxist and pro-Muslim — from hijacking the committee’s review. Now, however, the committee’s chairman, Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, has demonstrated how the committee itself could muck up the review — in a big way.

According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Rowley told a Midland County Republican Women audience on Wednesday that he and other critics are concerned about the allegedly “leftist bent” of CSCOPE’s lessons.”Leftist bent”? Does anyone honestly believe that the current and retired Texas teachers who have been writing CSCOPE lessons are leftists? Or that more than 800 public school districts in the state, plus the schools of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin as well as other Christian schools, would buy such materials? (In fact, they… Read More

In addition to passing a resolution today opposing private school vouchers, the Texas State Board of Education also passed a resolution dealing with its review of the CSCOPE curriculum management system. We noted some serious concerns regarding that review yesterday. What we heard during the CSCOPE discussion today, however, was encouraging.

Most importantly, a number of state board members — including Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso; Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio; and Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant — insisted that the upcoming CSCOPE review be completely transparent. Their comments came just two days after some board members — including Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, the chair of the board’s special committee reviewing CSCOPE — suggested that they might oppose making public the names of the volunteer reviewers (folks appointed from around the state). But today Rowley said that, following discussions with Texas Education Agency staff, he would recommend that the names of the reviewers be made public on request and that they be subject to rules designed to protect them from outside influence.

Rowley’s proposal is entirely reasonable and matches what the state board has done with textbook reviews in the past. We encourage the review committee to accept… Read More

One of the Republican candidates for the Texas State Board of Education District 15 seat, Marty Rowley of Amarillo, is offering one of his clearest arguments for teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in science classrooms. Rowley talked to the Amarillo Globe-News for a story about next year’s scheduled adoption of science textbooks by the state board:

“Evolutionists would say that we progressed to this point through a series of unplanned, random circumstances and random events. I don’t believe that tells the whole story. I think there is more to our creation that indicates an intelligent being that has played a significant role.”

Rowley goes on to argue that science students should learn “competing theories” and what he considers the flaws of evolution.

Rowley’s opponent in the GOP primary, Amarillo school board president Anette Carlisle, told the newspaper that the science standards should be based on the recommendations of teachers, scientists and other experts. She also worries that teaching about religious beliefs in the classroom will be divisive:

“We have multiple belief systems in our student population, and we have to be respectful of that and not try to force any one person’s belief system on other students.”

In… Read More

In the 1990s, San Antonio businessman James Leininger — the religious right’s sugar daddy in Texas — poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into State Board of Education (SBOE) races. That money helped hard-right social conservatives build a multi-year campaign to take control of the board — and turned subsequent board debates over textbooks and curriculum standards into divisive “culture war” battles that put politics ahead of education. But new campaign finance reports — which cover contributions and expenditures for January 1-April 19 — to the Texas Ethics Commission show that far less money is flowing (so far) into most election contests for all 15 SBOE seats this year. Moreover, Leininger hasn’t contributed any money (so far) to candidates in those races.

In the District 12 Republican primary, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas, is spending a lot of her own money to win back her old state board seat, which she lost to George Clayton, R-Richardson, in 2010. Miller’s spending tops that of all SBOE candidates, by far. She reported nearly $93,000 in campaign expenditures over the first four months of this year. That’s in addition to the $41,000 she spent in the last six months of… Read More